Deb Elise Ponders the Book Club

Populazzi Elise AllenYou know the closest thing I’ve ever come to being in a book club? Being a Deb! All five of us read one another’s books, and get to talk about them both to each other and in our posts. I’ve loved it, and I never for one minute felt that “having” to read the other Debs’ books was a chore. It makes me think I’d adore a book club, even though I’ve never belonged to one.

At the same time, I worry that if I were in a book club, each book would become one more item with a due date on an already long to-do list, and that might take some of the joy out of reading them.

I’m curious — those of you in book clubs — does the book list ever become a source of pressure instead of joy? Or does the thrill of coming together with a group of people to dive into a common topic win out?

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

14 thoughts on “Deb Elise Ponders the Book Club

  1. I think, for me, the answer is yes and no. Yes, it is really great to discuss with others, especially a book that you are enthusiastic about or even one that brought some questions to mind. Maybe one you had a tough time getting through. And, yes, sometimes it does feel like pressure. However, once I gave myself permission to not read or not finish the book being discussed, that helped. Even when I was the moderator of my group, occasionally, I didn’t finish the book. Our best discussions are usually books that we disagree about, and I think that is a pretty common thing. When we all love the book, it’s good, but just becomes a kind of gossipy session. I bet you’d love a book group, especially if you gave yourself permission to read/not read/etc.

    • I love that you feel you have that out. I agree that DISagreeing about a book would make for a terrific conversation, and I’d so enjoy the atmosphere of delving into all the little details to support our opinions… but I’d for sure need that permission to not do “the assignment” if it was a particularly crazy month.

  2. I completely agree with Kay. If I’m not enjoying the book, it feels like a chore, but I remind myself that I don’t *have* to finish it. I usually do (which is not the case with non-book club books), but that’s because I want to be able to contribute to the conversation.

    However, my book club leader has excellent taste. We’re called the “Not-So-Classic-Literature Book Club”, and, for instance, this month’s book is Bossypants by Tina Fey. So the books are generally not a chore to finish!

    • I’m impressed that you give yourself permission to not finish books in general! I’m very bad about that. Even if it’s a book I’m not enjoying, I’ll usually force myself to finish (though sometimes it’s a skimming sprint to the end). A book has to REALLY turn me off for me to put it down before I get to the end.

  3. I belonged to the best book club EVAH several years ago – The Feminist Salon in Oakland, CA. One of the great things about our club was that we realized that choosing a book by consensus would probably result of much of the same kind of book over and over. Instead we took turns “dictating” what we would read and as a result, I found myself reading things I never would have chosen on my own. Some of them I absolutely loved, some of them I couldn’t force myself to finish. And I think Kay is right – sometimes you have to give yourself a pass. I miss that group of women, and all the books we read, so much!

  4. I’m not a Book Club member thanks to “over-analysis” in college English classes where everyone knew exactly what the author meant. (rolling my eyes) Maybe that’s why I now appreciate the opportunity to actually ask an author and share her/his thoughts.

    • Eleanor had a great moment (among many) in her Q and A when I went to see her at Vroman’s. She said (and forgive me if I get this wrong, Eleanor) that after speaking in another city, someone in the crowd asked her if it was because she moved around so much as a kid, that she wrote a book thematically about finding one’s home. Eleanor at first scoffed — that wasn’t what she wrote about at all! — then thought about it and realized indeed, that’s absolutely a major theme in the book!

      I loved that because while we as authors place all our strings very carefully, there are designs that appear in the weave without any conscious realization on our parts. Often it takes a reader to discover something that we hadn’t even been aware we put in.

      In a way, it’s the flip side of what you’re saying — as authors, it’s thrilling to talk to readers and see what they’ve gleaned from our work!

    • I had a crit group that grew to a wine group. Some whining too, but nothing we didn’t all enjoy. It was fun, but it became so unproductive that it soon ground to a halt.

  5. I’ve been part of the same book club for over 10 years, and I suppose I’ll save most of the details about it for my own post on Friday. But we’re definitely NOT the stereotypical analysis-hungry book group that kicks members out for not reading the book. We alternate our selections between classic literature and what we call “summer smut” (our choices there have actually included some pretty risque erotica). Aside from the book stuff, we’ve become a remarkably tight group of friends who’ve followed each other through marriages, divorces, babies, job loss, and all sorts of other personal drama. Even on the rare occasion I don’t get around to reading the book, I can’t stand the idea of ever missing a meeting. It’s like this little family I get together with once a month.

    Tawna

    • I love that. I felt the same way about my running group — going for hours on end, we’d tell each other EVERYTHING. I’m still sad that we broke up. There were three of us, and when one moved away and the other got married and his schedule changed drastically, it just didn’t happen anymore. I now run with another friend, and it’s terrific, but I miss my other “family.”

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